M21-1, Part III, Subpart V, Chapter 1, Section e determinations of Insanity

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M21-1, Part III, Subpart v, Chapter 1, Section E - Determinations of Insanity

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In This Section


This section contains the topic, “Effect of Insanity on Administrative Decisions.”


1.  Effect of Insanity on Administrative Decisions




This topic contains information on the effect of insanity on administrative decisions, including

  • effect of insanity on Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits

  • placing insanity at issue

  • developing cases in which insanity is an issue

  • referring a case for rating action, and

  • preparing an administrative decision.

Change Date


November 14, 2011

III.v.1.E.1.a.  Effect of Insanity on VA Benefits


If a Veteran was determined to be insane at the time of the commission of the act or acts that would otherwise result in an adverse character of discharge, line-of-duty or willful misconduct determination, hold that the Veteran

  • was without fault, and

  • is not precluded from any Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. 

Reference:  For more information involving insanity and homicide in death claims, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart v,1.F.3.e.

III.v.1.E.1.b.  Placing Insanity at Issue


Insanity is placed at issue in the following ways:

  • by specific allegation by the Veteran or an authorized representative

  • by the VA employee if the evidence indicates the possibility of insanity, or

  • if suicidal death occurs in service. 

Reference:  For more information on the regulation regarding

  • insanity see 38 CFR 3.354, and

  • suicide see 38 CFR 3.302.

III.v.1.E.1.c.  Developing Cases in Which Insanity Is an Issue


If insanity is at issue, develop the case completely before making a determination.

Obtain the following information when developing:

  • all service and post-service treatment records that are in any way relevant, and

  • complete transcripts of any court martial or board proceedings that may be relevant. 

Note:  State specifically in a PIES request that the reason for the request is that “insanity is at issue.”

Reference:  For more information on obtaining service and post-service treatment records, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.A.

III.v.1.E.1.d.  Referring a Case for Rating Action


After completing development, refer the case to the rating activity to resolve the issue of insanity.


Rating Board Action

Line of duty or willful misconduct

  • The rating activity makes its decision in a rating in which the issue of insanity is the sole issue.

  • The rating decision is forwarded to the development activity for an administrative decision.

In-service self-inflicted death

  • The rating activity makes a formal rating decision granting or denying service-connected death.

  • The rating decision is forwarded to the authorization activity for final award or denial action.

Reference:  For more information on rating the question of insanity, see M21-1, Part IX, Subpart ii, 2.6.

III.v.1.E.1.e.  Preparing an Administrative Decision


When a rating decision is received, whether or not insanity is established, the development activity must prepare a formal decision of character of discharge, line of duty, or willful misconduct determinations for approval, as required.

Important:  All subsequent action must be based on this determination or on a formal rating decision that may have been made.

References:  For more information on administrative decisions for

  • character of discharge, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart v,1,B.1

  • line-of-duty determinations, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart v,1.D.6, and

  • willful misconduct determinations, see

    • M21-1, Part III, Subpart v, Chapter 1,D.2, and

    • M21-1, Part III, Subpart v, Chapter 1,D.4.

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